I’m not gonna lie, it’s hard. Hard to see all the pictures posted of smiling kids on their first day of school. Kids who’ve brushed their hair, wearing seasonally appropriate clothing holding up a sign proudly announcing their first day of school. It’s hard to see the teachers lined up, forming a tunnel celebrating and holding up streamers to welcome each child that comes through– knowing it’s gonna be difficult for your child to walk through. It’s hard, knowing your child has had a constant stomach ache for the past week– filled with anxiety for a new year, a new teacher, and mostly new classmates.
This child is beautiful and brilliant and a complete joy to be with. But this world is so difficult for her to navigate. She doesn’t understand so much about communication and social interaction. She doesn’t understand why kids her age don’t want to play the same thing she does. She doesn’t understand why they can’t talk (or listen) for hours on end about the latest youtube video she’s watched, or about Harry Potter. She struggles to interpret tone of voice, and body language. Conversation she does make with others is largely “cut and paste” from things she has heard– she manages to script the dialogue enough to get by.
She often rejects any “typical” show of kindness that is shown to her. It is hard for her to appropriately reciprocate your smile, your hug, your hello, your offer to be included. Yet, she wants more than anything to feel like a part of the group.
We drove down the road yesterday, just the two of us, and she said, “Mommy I have a problem about myself.” I said, “What is it sweet girl?” “You know how I can mimic people? I find myself sounding just like “stacyplays” or “seri pixel biologist” (these are you tubers). And I’m not even meaning to.” So I ask, “Well what does Kellyn sound like?” She replied in complete monotone, “I don’t know.” And my heart broke a little bit.
My heart broke a little more when I saw the fear and anxiety upon seeing the extravagant welcome waiting for her at school. She got out of the van, ran through the tunnel with a grimace on her face and her hands clasped over her ears. It was loud, it was interactive, and most of all it was DIFFERENT.
Don’t get me wrong, there is SO much about this girl that is unbelievably beautiful and unique. But today it’s hard. Today, I am praying she makes it through this first day of a scary new year, without having to hide behind a bookcase, or pull a blanket out of her backpack, or chew on her shirt until its soaked. I gave her a light jacket of mine to wear because I new it was comforting because it smelled like me, and I thought it would cause a 4th grader less embarrassment than having a blanket with her at school.
Today is also hard because I have another daughter, one who has often had to play the role of the older sister, even though she is younger. The one who has had to manage. The one who has lived in fear of her sister getting upset, yet loves her more than life itself. The one who is a social butterfly, excited about school, and in many ways like a little adult. I am so thankful that most things seem to come easy for her. She is growing up more with more empathy and sensitivity than I could ever hope for. May she one day she it as a gift.
In all of this, I become more determined to be the parent willing to put in the hard work. To help my kids become independent and equip them to find their place in this world. I will do whatever it takes to put the processes in place for them to grow, to be kind, to be brave. And I need all the help I can get.
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” -Galatians 6:2
You make me brave… you make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.
You make me brave… you make me brave.
No fear can hinder now the promises you’ve made. -Amanda Lindsey Cook